A series of devastating tornadoes and severe storms ripped through 17 counties in the western half of Ohio, leaving one dead and about 90 injured. Gov. Mike DeWine has declared a state of emergency for three counties that suffered serious damage including Greene, Mercer and Montgomery.
The National Weather Service reports that each county was hit by EF3 tornadoes with winds up to 165 miles an hour. The hardest-hit areas were the cities of Celina, Dayton, Trotwood and Circleville. Tens of thousands are without electricity and water.
Although no churches report significant damage, New City Church sustained minimal damage with broken windows and roof damage. Volunteers from McKinley, Aley, Ginghamsburg and Hoffman United Methodist churches are providing shelter, meals, bottled water, showers and cellphone charging stations to those in need.
County Emergency Management Agency directors are on the ground in affected areas and are assessing damage. Once the safety measures and damage assessments are complete, volunteer teams will be invited into the area to assist in cleanup and rebuilding.
“Several hundred homes have been affected by these tornadoes and storms,” said Jeff Walker, West Ohio Conference disaster response coordinator. “There will be plenty to do. We encourage people to pray and donate to the West Ohio Disaster Response Fund and wait until such time when volunteers are needed,” he said.
Early Response Teams serve in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, while Mission Volunteers provide long-term support. United Methodists, often among the first to respond to disasters, stay until the recovery process is complete.
“It is amazing how many people have rallied around us, sending love, prayers, bottled water,” said the Rev. Jocelyn Roper, Miami Valley District superintendent. “From California to South Carolina, people are asking how they can help.”
Specialized training is needed for those who wish to assist. If you would like to organize a team at your church, contact Kris Shoaf at kshoaf [at] wocumc.org or 614-844-6200, ext. 217.
To donate online, visit westohioumc.org. For those who prefer to send a donation, please make the check payable to West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church and mark the memo line with “WOC Disaster Response.” Mail checks to 32 Wesley Blvd., Worthington, OH 43085.
The Rev. Dee Stickley-Miner, director of connectional ministries, and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer will be traveling to the area on Friday.
“Please know that your faith, prayers, donations and hands-on ministry are making – and will make – a difference to the people and communities affected by this disaster,” Palmer said.